Last Fall we looked around and saw a lot of finger pointing, name calling, and misunderstandings. One could easily get dismayed, or could take this opportunity to look around and do something to better the world around you. We truly believed there was good to be found so we asked a simple question: “If you were given $500 to #GROWtheGood in your community, what would you do?” We received thousands of responses of simple, courageous acts of good that were either already happening and needed a little help, or were in the idea stage and needed a spark to get them going. From funding a food pantry to starting a community garden there was so much good to be found.
As we head in to 2017, we want to celebrate the good taking place across this amazing country of ours by honoring a few of the people who #GROWtheGood in their community. Below are just a few of the submissions we received, we’ll share more throughout the year. Read their stories and let us know how you’re growing the good around you. What you focus on grows!
Idaho | Joey T.
I make blankets for cancer patients. I am 14 and when I was 11 I started my own charity called Joey’s Blankets of Courage, Strength, and Hope. Even though I started chemo in 2015 I have continued to make blankets for others.
I plan to buy fabric for my blankets so I can bring comfort to more cancer patients.
Maryland | David W.
We have adopted 6 and will soon be 7 special needs children. We also take in hospice children to give them a loving environment in their final days. I retired from being a mailman and work at the local special education school. My wife has become educational surrogate for several children who have no one to represent them in IEP meetings to make sure their educational needs are being met.
We would love to donate the grant to the Ruth Eason School PTO which is the parent organization that serves the special education center that many of my children have and are attending. It is also the place my wife and I have both worked and was where we became involved with 3 of the children we would eventually adopt. My hope is that they could use the funds directly or identify a particular family, many struggle under the weight of a special needs child, who could benefit greatly from such a donation.
Alaska | Rebecca R.
Each year I adopt a family at our school for Christmas in memory of a sweet classmate of my daughter who lost her life to cancer when just 7 years old. With this money, I will adopt a second family in memory of sweet Abbie. This is done anonymously with the help of our school secretary and nurse. They nominate who needs the most help and act as a go between so no one feels embarrassed in our small school. Abbie passed away 5 years ago. This is my 5th year secretly blessing a family in her name. In the questionnaire I ask that the family only let us know the ages and wishes of their children and themselves and everything else remains a secret that we only hope they will pay forward someday.
Our sincere appreciation for the optimism Life Is Good shares, and the honor of winning for Alaska so we can share more joy with families in honor of our friends.
Washington | Cindy and Annalisa B.
My ten-year-old daughter Annalisa has a vision for improving the lives of the elderly living in nursing homes. She wants to use Compassion and Creativity to make their living areas an inviting space. She wants to buy and seek donations of colorful blankets and quilts, get inspiring bright artwork, and provide essential oil diffusers to transform the spaces. Soft touched, rejuvenating colors and naturally uplifting fragrances would do a lot to comfort the elderly who cannot live on their own.
Winning this contest for my middle daughter Annalisa will be life changing! She loves older adults and has been wanting to be involved in a nursing home for years. What a great way to get involved, empowering her to immediately make a visible impact. Thank you so much for this opportunity and your positive messages!
Virginia | Jen K.
I will buy yarn. This may sound odd at first, but there is much love and good that can be done with yarn. Cancer is something that has touched many of our lives. There are several co-workers of mine battling the big C right now. I would use the yarn to knit and crochet blankets and other goodies for cancer patients at our local hospitals. There is a knitting group associated with the local libraries and I bet they’d be willing to lend the magic of their hooks and needles to the project too. It’d be nice to wrap some people in love when they are fighting for their lives so they know folks care about and are praying for them.
Georgia | Issac M.
Original note: I am 9 and have a brother in the Air Force. We miss him. He misses us too. Last year I told Santa I didn’t want gifts. I told him to send things to soldiers like my brother who can’t be home. Santa left money so I could send boxes of treats. We sent them to them fighting a war. I want to send more boxes this year.
From Issac’s Mom:
He’s BEAMING!!! His brother is actually on his way home for the holidays, something he hasn’t been home for in YEARS! Issac has had to move from GA to SC and back to GA again the last two years due to jobs for my husband/Ike’s dad. His dad has been working out of state and away from us for the majority of the past 2 years and yet he is always thinking of others in the midst of changing schools and leaving friends and missing his brother.
We do work with an organization “Troops Need Love Too” started by a mom (Jill Stephens) of an airman my son (Ike’s brother) went to basic training with. She has the contacts of various bases overseas and names of soldiers in need of care packages.This is a picture of Ike last year at Christmas. He was first in line, and made Santa tear up when he asked for nothing but help for our soldiers.
Even before my friend Jill started Troops Need Love Too, Ike has collected and shipped packages to our troops. I’ve had friends and neighbors donate money so he can help keep Ike in stock of food, supplies, and shipping money. It’s not uncommon to come home to random cans of food on our porch. This is something he truly has a passion for doing. He is a special kiddo for sure. Thanks for helping him continue serving those who sacrifice so much to serve for us.
New Hampshire | Steve G.
As part of our BeachBum Philanthropy mission, we’ve been doing our best to help Liberty House in Manchester, NH for the past 2+ years. They serve those who have served, helping veterans who are homeless as well as those struggling to get back on their feet. At this time, we are sharing 30 bag lunches per week (10 each on Mon/Wed/Thurs) in addition to spreading the word via our BeachBum Facebook page about most-needed items each week. As the cold NH winter is coming, my goal is to attach a pair of hand-warmers to every lunch throughout the winter, in addition to securing as many pieces of cold-weather gear we can find (socks, gloves, hats, tarps, sweatshirts, boots, coats) from our network of BeachBum family and friends. Choosing to make giving an integral part of my speaking career was the best decision I ever made.
At the time of this message (as you know being down in Boston), it is below-zero up here in NH with wind chill. Yesterday we used our second-to-last 10-pack of hand-warmers with our weekly bag lunches. We are doing our best to stretch every dollar to help our homeless veterans, and you all just made our mission so much easier!
Delaware | Elaine G.
I volunteer with a group known as ‘Family Promise’. Its mission is to facilitate the reestablishment of families who have fallen on hard times from ILLNESS/DISABILITY, job loss and other unforeseeable situations. We supply temporary places to sleep, wash clothes, get children to school while the parent(s) look for work. We cook and serve meals to alleviate that struggle until the family can support themselves in the community again. I will donate the $500.00 to provide bedding, clothing and food for as far as it goes. It all counts to facilitate some peace of mind for less fortunate families.
Pennsylvania | Lauren M.
I will be collecting food for our school districts backpack program. We collect for over 100 families/children who do not have enough food in their house for over a weekend. It is a great cause and makes me happy to know children are not going hungry.
I would like to give you a little bit of history behind the North Hills School District Backpack Initiative! In 2012 two North Hills High School Educators started the program. They noticed that there were many children on our free lunch program. It became a concern that these children only had a good meal while they were at school. However, over the weekends they did not have enough food to eat in their homes. There are 180 families roughly in our district that utilize this program. The children count on this food! It is such a wonderful program!! I can not even imagine a hungry child, but it goes on much more than we think.
Kentucky | Benji L.
Each year I coordinate a project called Build A Bed! I work hard to get local Volunteers to come together to build 100 beds. With the help of the public school system we had identify 100 children who were sleeping on floors couches or doubled up with siblings in order to provide them with a new bed. A good night sleep was something that I take for granted but not anymore! In Louisville, Kentucky we have at least 10,000 children each year become homeless and in most circumstances their families lose everything. I cannot imagine being a child and not knowing Where I will sleep each night. The reality of these statistics is what touched my heart and my soul and brought me to action! I do not do this for me but this dream started with a desire to help in some small way a child who goes to sleep at night without the security of sleeping in a bed they can call their own where they feel warm protected and comforted! In my opinion this helps children see and understand that life is good! That there are good people that care about me! So these beds go to children who come from low income families who may have been homeless or for some unfortunate. Reason do not have a bed. We have a local lumber company, Home Depot donate supplies and a local mattress company sells those mattresses at $50 a piece. Since we have no funding to support this project all of the support is 100% based on volunteers and donations. It is my hope and dream that all identified children will receive a bed frame, mattress, sheets, pillow, blanket, stuffed animal, bedtime book, toothpaste and toothbrush!
North Dakota | Leola D.
I am the founder of Heart-n-Soul Community Cafe. I would offer healthy local and of course delicious food to everyone in our community! We would come together at several local farms or gardens this summer June through October. North Dakota has bountiful harvest and a bounty of wonderful talented people! I have a vision of having groups of every generation and background to work with local farmers to harvest, clean, and prepare a meal and then invite our community to join us. I have experience coordinating activities and have reached out to local farmers to explore this possibility. I have a place to prepare and serve the meals. I see people coming together who may be very different and seeing they may be different but also have things in common. My experiences have shown me preparing and sharing a meal is a great way to bring people together! I would be behind the scenes and showcase talents of people who may not always have the opportunity to shine.
Oregon | Vickie S.
The Center for Hope and Safety provides shelter, counseling, work training, legal support and transition assistance for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. We have purchased two new shelter homes and will be moving in January. We need beds and bedding and s security system. Your support will help us continue to support thousands of families with safe housing and strength to have a place of their own.
Texas | Lauren O.
My daughter, Lauren does care packages for people going through difficult times. She makes them very personalized (using a questionnaire if she doesn’t know the recipient), and doesn’t charge anything for them. She uses her own money only. It is a passion of hers to bring a little goodness and joy into others’ lives. This $500 would be put into very good use for that!!
Some of the reasons I’ve sent care packages include:
New York | Terri S.
There are no public libraries in our community. We are at least 8-10 miles from closest town with libraries. I would use the money to have Book Boxes built at prime locations were people can share/trade their books. I have been made aware this is very successful in other rural communities and a great project for a potential Eagle Scout. It would appear to be a great way to have all ages in our county benefit from working together to share and build community.
I just retired from working in a local School Dist. in June. I am beyond excited to have won this opportunity to share reading material with families in our community! I immediately shared the news with several of my friends who are also retired teachers from our district. Their response was ” i’m in! Let me know how I can help!” We will certainly keep you updated with our progress.
Florida | Lisa B.
I just started doing some work for a non-profit called Edible Education Experience in Orlando. Their goal is to integrate gardening & cooking into the school curriculum and the community, so kids and families learn how to grow their own food and cook delicious, affordable, nutritious meals. As a writer, I’m volunteering my services to help this new non-profit market itself to the community to generate funding, volunteers, etc. This nonprofit aims to share these strategies with other educators around the country so they could develop similar programs in their own communities. They also have community gardening classes, chef nights (where local chefs teach cooking skills to families), and more. I absolutely LOVE this concept and want to help Edible Education Experience grow (pardon the pun).
Arizona | Elizabeth W.
Four years ago, my twin sons were born in the 23rd week of my pregnancy. Joel was born sleeping, but at 1lb 5oz, Jacob was born fighting. He fought through severe bilateral bleeding in his brain (we were given the option to discontinue life support), a heart surgery, a hernia surgery, almost 8 weeks intubated on a ventilator, and many other preemie issues. And while he fought, our family walked that NICU journey and fought with him. 115 days later – we took him home. Today Jacob is a healthy 4 year old with minimal long term effects from his early start to life – but I truly believe that his start has influenced his attitude – he is happy, and optimistic, tough and he appreciates life, brothers, friends and sunrises. To Jacob – Life IS good. To grow that good – we give our time, our experiences and our story to the NICU that Jacob was born in. We are part of a Parent Advisory Council that works to make life better for the parents of children in the NICU. Many NICU stays are long and painful – we work to provide classes, experiences, connections and smiles for these parents. One of our many projects right now is to create preemie sized Halloween costumes for every baby in the NICU. We will be providing holiday gift bags with books and blankets for these families, as well as gift cards for gas (the back and forth between the hospital and home is difficult) and other necessities that we can manage to provide. We hold sibling days, and Valentines dinners, craft nights and counseling sessions. Our NICU stay was 4 years ago, but I can talk about it like it was yesterday. Giving our time, our energy and creating connections and smiles for these NICU families helps us to make sense of our story. Because Jacob is here. And at 4 years old, he is already changing the world for the better.
Our goal is to create positive experiences for NICU families- and we are already starting to formulate a life is good themed event!
Colorado | Theresa S.
I volunteer at a therapeutic horse riding program where disabled folks of all types benefit from riding horses. I plan to take our optimism out into the community by visiting nursing homes, schools and hospitals with our miniature horse named Patchie. You can’t help but smile when you see a miniature horse, and Patchie brings peace, happiness and optimism, much like a therapy dog does.
Massachusetts | Kezia F.
In 2011 my daughter, Saoirse, and I both battled cancer. Saoirse was just 11 months old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma. She was given a PICC line and later a Central Line for treatment. The tape used to keep her from pullin it out caused a rash. I found a way to make a sleeve and then a wrap to hold the lines in place. I made them for other patients on the unit and everyone loved them. After Saoirse’s death in December of 2011, my husband and I made the decision to continue working to bring these garments to all the patients who needed them. We have spent the past 4 years growing our business and pushing for change within the hospital system so that kids and adults – just like Saoirse and I – won’t have to struggle like we did with line complications. It’s a struggle to change an established system – especially in the medical world – but we know how important it is and no matter how we struggle personally (I’ve been back to battling my own cancer for the past two years), we will always push to make sure that we can help as many patients as possible.
This grant will help us to get our first production of our new sleeves and wraps started. This is going to have a big impact on how many hospitals and patients can have access to our desperately needed medical products.
Thank you to all who shared how they would #GROWtheGood. There are more stories to share and more good to grow. Have one you want to share? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on social.